Environmental Management

, Volume 41, Issue 4, pp 487-500

First online:

A Typology of Collaboration Efforts in Environmental Management

  • Richard D. MargerumAffiliated withDepartment of Planning, Public Policy and Management, 1209 University of Oregon Email author 

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Collaboration involves stakeholders and the public in a process of consensus building to address some of the most difficult environmental management problems facing society today. Collaborative groups vary widely, ranging from small watershed councils to regional ecosystem collaboratives to groups addressing large-scale policy issues. While these collaboratives all match the common principles of collaboration, a closer examination reveals many differences. Using institutional theories about levels of decision making provides a way of classifying collaboratives along a spectrum from action level to organizational level to policy level. This typology is applied to thirty-six collaboration case studies in Australia and the United States that were investigated over a series of years through interviews, observation, document analysis, and surveys. The application reveals different tendencies among the case types in terms of population, size, problem significance, institutional setting, and focus of activities. The typology also reveals functional differences in the types of stakeholders involved, the management arrangements for implementation, and the approaches to implementing change. This typology can help practitioners better understand the challenges and appropriate types of collaborations for different settings. It helps highlight differences in the role of government and decentralization of power. It distinguishes the different theoretical foundations for different types of collaboratives. Finally, it elucidates the different evaluation approaches for different types of collaboratives.


Collaboration Ecosystem management Community based natural resources management Grass roots environmental management